A video series about culturally responsive education
 

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Seen in the Classroom

The Story

What becomes possible when students learn from educators that share part of their cultural experience? Or when they learn curriculum that honors and sustains their distinct history?

Aaron Harris, a New York City public school teacher, is one of just four male teachers of color at a school with a predominantly Black student body. A Washington, D.C. native, Aaron shares his experiences as a teacher of color in the classroom, and how race and ethnicity inform the role educators play in their students’ lives. 

RELATED RESOURCES

Students of All Races Prefer Teachers of Color, Study Finds Education Week

Middle and high school students, regardless of their race and ethnicity, have more favorable perceptions of their Black and Latino teachers than of their White teachers, finds a new NYU Steinhardt Study.

The Measure of Effective Teaching study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, used in-depth surveys to gather students’ perceptions of their teachers’ instructional practices. The students were asked questions on seven measures core to their experiences in the classroom, including whether their teacher treats students with respect, explains difficult concepts clearly, makes class interesting, and tries to understand students’ feelings.

This raises the question: how can all teachers leverage these strategies in the classroom?

How the Stress of Racism Affects Learning The Atlantic

A new study shows that the pressures associated with discrimination contribute to the opportunity gap.

“The team of researchers found that the physiological response to race-based stressors—be it perceived racial prejudice, or the drive to outperform negative stereotypes—leads the body to pump out more stress hormones in adolescents from traditionally marginalized groups. This biological reaction to race-based stress is compounded by the psychological response to discrimination or the coping mechanisms youngsters develop to lessen the distress. What emerges is a picture of black and Latino students whose concentration, motivation, and, ultimately, learning is impaired by unintended and overt racism.”

Credits

A Media Sutra production

Director: Manauvaskar Kublall

Executive Producers: Richard Gray, Natalie Zwerger, Megan Amelia Hester

Editor: Nenman Walbe, Manauvaskar Kublall

Camera: Jamal Tenth, Manauvaskar Kublall

Sound Recording: Nadia Bourne

Music Production: Gerald Trotman


WATCH (3:38)

Being Culturally Responsive as a White Teacher

 

The Story

When Erin Dunlevy left her hometown in suburban New Jersey to teach in the South Bronx, she was shocked to see a line of 2,500 students wrapped around the school building waiting to pass through the only operational metal detector on campus.

Close to 80% of teachers in New York City schools are white women who teach a student body with predominantly students of color.

Erin shares her learning about what it means to be an ally who is responsive to community needs and to honor community voices.

Credits

A Media Sutra production

Director: Manauvaskar Kublall

Executive Producers: Richard Gray, Natalie Zwerger, Megan Amelia Hester

Editor: Nenman Walbe, Manauvaskar Kublall

Camera: Jamal Tenth, Nenman Walbe, Manauvaskar Kublall

Sound Recording: Nadia Bourne

Music Production: Gerald Trotman

RELATED RESOURCES

The unexamined Whiteness of teaching Race Ethnicity and Education

This article explores the ways in which white educators’ life experiences impact their understandings of teaching across race in the classroom.

“Teacher education must take seriously the negative impact that Whiteness can have on teachers’ understanding of children of color and urban schools. White teachers are often entering the profession with a lifetime of hegemonic reinforcement to see students of color and their communities as dangerous and at fault for the educational challenges they face.”

White Fragility International Journal of Critical Pedagogy

This article describes how white people struggle to navigate the impact of their own racial identity.

“White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.”


 

WATCH (3:23)

The Archaeology of the Self

The Story

How do issues of race, class, religion, and sexual orientation live within us? How does our societal conditioning shape the way educators show up in classrooms?

Bronx native Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz challenges educators to examine their views on the communities and students they serve.

Using an archaeological approach, Sealey-Ruiz mentors educators of all backgrounds on how to do the "deep work" of excavating their personal histories and activating their racial consciousness as a precursor to theorizing about pedagogy.  

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Popular Visual Images and the (Mis)Reading of Black Male Youth Teaching Education

This article prompts thinking around the ways misreading, misunderstanding, and misrepresentation of Black male youth can be countered by supporting the development of preservice teachers’ racial literacy skills.

“As defined in this article, racial literacy is a skill and practice in which individuals are able to discuss the social construction of race (Omi & Winant, 1986), probe the existence of racism and examine the harmful effects of racial stereotypes. Scholars of racial literacy (Sealey-Ruiz, 2012, 2013; Sealey-Ruiz & Greene, 2011; Skerret, 2011; Rogers & Mosely, 2006) offer approaches to developing racial literacy in ways that move an individual or group of individuals toward constructive conversations about race and anti-racist action in schools.”

Credits

A Media Sutra production

Director: Manauvaskar Kublall

Executive Producers: Richard Gray, Natalie Zwerger, Megan Amelia Hester

Associate Producer: Piper Anderson

Editor: Nenman Walbe, Manauvaskar Kublall

Camera: Jamal Tenth, Nenman Walbe, Manauvaskar Kublall

Sound Recording: Nadia Bourne

Music Production: Gerald Trotman

“They Look Scared”: Moving From Service Learning to Learning to Serve in Teacher Education Equity & Excellence in Education

This article prompts the reader to consider how deeply ingrained biases can be prior to teachers ever entering classrooms.

Dr. Kirkland suggests that a goal for teacher service learning should be “more compassionate and more committed teacher learners, who prior to and in collaboration with their journeys into the field, learn first to respect, value, and love (as opposed to fear) their students and their students’ communities.”


 

WATCH (5:58)

Race Conversations in the Classroom

 

The Story

Jillian McRae and Sam North co-facilitate a course about classism, sexism, and racism at Ossining High School in Westchester County, New York that creates space for students to have courageous conversations and make intentional choices about their involvement in their communities.

How do students react when the conversation centers institutional structures rather than individual acts?

What happens when high school students frame their examination of systems around those who benefit the most from them, and are encouraged to have honest discussions about the “isms” these systems create with their peers?

Credits

A Media Sutra production

Director: Manauvaskar Kublall

Executive Producers: Richard Gray, Natalie Zwerger, Megan Amelia Hester

Editor: Nenman Walbe, Manauvaskar Kublall

Camera: Jamal Tenth, Nenman Walbe, Manauvaskar Kublall

Sound Recording: Nadia Bourne

Music Production: Gerald Trotman

 

RELATED RESOURCE

I, Racist Huffington Post

This article lays out the distance between white folks who can go most, if not all, of their lives not thinking about race or racism, and how that sits in conflict with folks of color who have no choice but to exist in a racist world, in racist institutions, and around white folks who are attempting to be “non-racist.”

“White people and Black people are not having a discussion about race. Black people, thinking as a group, are talking about living in a racist system. White people, thinking as individuals, refuse to talk about ‘I, racist’ and instead protect their own individual and personal goodness. In doing so, they reject the existence of racism. But arguing about personal non-racism is missing the point.”


 

WATCH (3:02)

Breaking the Stereotype of the Uncaring Black Parent

The Story

Before her appointment to the Parent Teacher Association at her youngest child's school, Zakiyah Ansari raised and supported four of her children through college.

Despite her demonstrated interest in the future of her children and their education, Zakiyah is often met with cynicism and low expectations held by other adults who believe black and brown families are unconcerned about their children’s studies.

This animated film shares Zakiyah's testimony about how stereotypes function in schools and shape the students expectations for themselves and their learning environments.


RELATED RESOURCES

I can’t make a teacher love my son Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out: Voices from the Front Lines of the Educational Justice Movement

This article chronicles one parent of color’s journey as her son was deficitized beginning in preschool and how this fueled her work as an education justice advocate.

“It's extremely important for parents of color, specifically black parents, to be at the forefront of movements for educational justice. We need more support for parents to come out of the shadows of shame and inferiority and break the negative stereotype of black parents. The myth of our not caring about our children's education needs to be shattered.”

 

Credits

A Media Sutra production

Director: Manauvaskar Kublall

Executive Producers: Richard Gray, Natalie Zwerger, Megan Amelia Hester

Animation: Patricia Battles

Editor: Manauvaskar Kublall

Camera: Jamal Tenth, Nenman Walbe, Manauvaskar Kublall

Sound Recording: Nadia Bourne

Music Production: Gerald Trotman


WATCH (5:51)

Raising a Critically Conscious Teaching Force

 

The Story

To what extent are we influenced by our inherent biases? Can honest, genuine, and critical human connection serve as a solution to institutional racism? If so, what does that look like in practice?

Paul Forbes and Natalie Zwerger work to develop individual school and district-wide understandings of race, power, and privilege.

Credits

A Media Sutra production

Director: Manauvaskar Kublall

Executive Producers: Richard Gray, Natalie Zwerger, Megan Amelia Hester

Editor: Nenman Walbe, Manauvaskar Kublall

Camera: Nenman Walbe, Jamal Tenth, Manauvaskar Kublall

Sound Recording: Nadia Bourne

Music Production: Gerald Trotman

RELATED RESOURCES

How Educators Can Eradicate Disparities in School Discipline: A Briefing Paper on School-Based Interventions Indiana University Center for Evaluation and Education Policy

This is a solution-oriented article outlining some best practices educators can employ to reduce disparities in discipline within their spheres of influence.

“Districts and schools across the nation are engaging in long-term change to transform their approaches to school discipline. Equity-oriented principles and examples of conflict prevention and intervention can help guide the change. Schools that prevent punitive discipline responses increase children and adolescents’ access to supportive relationships, academic rigor, and culturally relevant and responsive teaching. They teach students and educators social and emotional skills and coping strategies, and they improve relationships between educators, students, and parents.”

Implicit Bias Review The Ohio State University

This is a comprehensive report of research studies on bias across a number of institutions.


 

WATCH (3:57)

A Principal's Perspective

The Story

What happens when the racial makeup of a community changes? How does the historical context of the American public education system affect students learning in a more diverse society?

When a fight occurs at a school basketball game, racial tensions run high and spill into the community. In its wake, Ann Dealy’s stance ensures that institutions respond to the needs of each and every student, particularly students of color. Using her privilege, voice, and position as a school principal, Dealy demonstrates what it looks like to hear, see, and respect students.


RELATED RESOURCES

But That's Just Good Teaching! The Case for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy Theory into Practice

This article not only defines culturally relevant pedagogy, but offers specific components of it: academic success, cultural competence, and critical consciousness.

“I have defined culturally relevant teaching as a pedagogy of opposition (1992c) not unlike critical pedagogy but specifically committed to collective, not merely individual, empowerment. Culturally rele­vant pedagogy rests on three criteria or propositions: (a) Students must experience academic success; (b) students must develop and/or maintain cultural com­petence; and (c) students must develop a critical con­sciousness through which they challenge the status quo of the current social order.”

“But What Can I Do?”: Three Necessary Tensions in Teaching Teachers About Race Journal of Teacher Education

This article addresses several of the tensions that educators can feel with both the depth and breadth of this important work within institutions like education that have historically inconsistent commitments to equity and justice.

“Teachers will repeatedly question whether and how they can acquire concrete tools to handle ideas that are too abstract, pinpoint individual acts within structures that are too big, and develop as professionals when personal selves are too unprepared. We propose that PD on issues of race, here of preservice teachers, cannot and should not resolve these tensions in an either–or fashion. Our data suggest that unless facilitators explicitly encourage both sides of each tension to remain in play during the PD experience, PD on race may prompt simplistic resolution of each challenge.”

Credits

A Media Sutra production

Director: Manauvaskar Kublall

Executive Producers: Richard Gray, Natalie Zwerger, Megan Amelia Hester

Editor: Nenman Walbe, Manauvaskar Kublall

Camera: Nenman Walbe, Jamal Tenth, Manauvaskar Kublall

Sound Recording: Nadia Bourne

Music Production: Gerald Trotman


WATCH (6:25)

Relearning History, Telling New Stories

 

The Story

As a child, New York Times bestselling author Daniel José Olde, was unable to see the world he was experiencing represented in the books he read. As an adult, he creates characters which bring the realities of young people of color to life.

Karyn Parsons, actress, author, founder of Sweet Blackberry, saw disparities between the facts she discovered as an adult and those taught in the history classes of her youth.

How does representation (or a lack thereof) in curricula affect the way children view themselves? How much agency do students deserve in their classroom? Motivated by their own childhood experiences, Daniel and Karyn tell new stories and surface tales of the past to ensure the stories of today are a more accurate illustration of history, truth, and lived experience.


Credits

A Media Sutra production

Director: Manauvaskar Kublall

Executive Producers: Richard Gray, Natalie Zwerger, Megan Amelia Hester

Associate Producer: Piper Anderson

Editor: Nenman Walbe, Manauvaskar Kublall

Camera: Jamal Tenth, Nenman Walbe, Manauvaskar Kublall

Sound Recording: Nadia Bourne

Music Production: Gerald Trotman

RELATED RESOURCES

Schools’ reading lists biased against authors & characters of color: report New York Daily News

“The NYC Coalition for Educational Justice conducted an analysis of racial/ethnic diversity in two elementary school English Language Arts (ELA) curricula that are commonly used in NYC public schools –  Teachers College Reading and Writing Project curriculum (promoted by the previous administration and widely used) and the Pearson ReadyGen K-6 curriculum (recommended for schools by the NYC DOE) – as well as in the Scholastic Pre-K and K-6 booklist, which is widely used to stock classroom libraries, school libraries, and book fairs. We looked at the authors of the stories and books in these curricula, as well as the characters on the covers, and documented their racial/ethnic identity. These curricula represent just a slice of the materials that NYC elementary schools use, but a meaningful one. “

Sweet Blackberry

A nonprofit organization founded by actress and author Karyn Parsons “to bring little known stories of African American achievement to children everywhere.”

Since 2005, Sweet Blackberry produces films, conducts school visits, creates collaborative learning activities, and acts as a champion for culturally-responsive learning and growth for children of all races and ethnicities.


 

WATCH (9:57)

Practicing Culturally Responsive Education

The Story

Whose voices are heard and unheard in the classroom? What do students have to teach their teachers? How can teachers overcome taboos around race talk?

Current and former teachers share their experience learning and practicing culturally responsive education in their classrooms and beyond.


RELATED RESOURCES

Note to Educators: Hope Required When Growing Roses in Concrete Harvard Educational Review

This article outlines all of the ways that hope—from false hope to authentic hope—must elevate the work we do to critically engage our young people.

“The most effective urban educators, in every discipline at every grade level, connect the academic rigor of content areas with their students’ lives (Duncan- Andrade, 2007). If we are serious about giving our children hope, we must reflect on how to connect our pedagogy to the harsh realities of poor, urban communities.”

 

Credits

A Media Sutra production

Director: Manauvaskar Kublall

Executive Producers: Richard Gray, Natalie Zwerger, Megan Amelia Hester

Editor: Nenman Walbe, Manauvaskar Kublall

Camera: Nenman Walbe, Jamal Tenth, Manauvaskar Kublall

Sound Recording: Nadia Bourne

Music Production: Gerald Trotman